Time constantly increases the distance between then and now, but it does little to erase the feeling that your world has been irrevocably redrawn. You don't recover from loss as much as you figure out how to go on in a very different manner. And you don't return to life's routine, either, because there's no such thing as life's routine in the first place. You get changed, and you have no choice in the matter.
As many of you know, I shoot a lot of pictures. In our family, I'm the guy sticking his lens into everyone's face, at times and in places that normally wouldn't be considered appropriate for picture-taking. At the table, in the kitchen, even before everyone gets out of or into the car, there I am, clicking away.
My mother-in-law used to complain to my wife about it, asking her why I took so many pictures. Like many of us, she didn't like having her picture taken, especially by a photographically-insane son-in-law who seemed to pop out of every corner of the house with little notice. I'm pretty sure it annoyed her a bit, but I shot, anyway, because I felt the need to freeze time, to capture moments that I knew, deep down, weren't permanent. It became a yin-and-yang thing between us, and somehow despite her external annoyance, I think she somehow enjoyed it and was glad I took the time to tell the family's story in my, ah, unique way.
Like my father, my mother-in-law spent the last few years of her life facing a growing mountain of health-related challenges. And as they each got sicker, I found myself reaching for my camera more often. I took it into places I probably shouldn't have, like the hospital, but I wanted a visual record because I thought it would do all of us some good.
I still believe that, because four years later I can't take any new pictures. I couldn't freeze time then, and I sure can't freeze it now. But at the very least I can look back at those frozen images and remember to be glad I crossed her path in the first place. Looking at a photo lost to time doesn't change much, but at least it gives you a place to go when you're still feeling adrift from loss long after the rest of the world says you should have gotten over it.
The rest of the world is wrong. And I'll keep carrying my camera into places where it probably doesn't belong. Because telling the story is how we honour the lives of those who have helped shape us, and I'm glad I got to tell at least part of my mother-in-law's story.
My wife's Facebook post today
There are no words (Feb 23, 2013)
Even the skies know (February 27, 2013)
Temporarily dormant (March 7, 2013)